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EDITORIAL - No Glenmuir carpet cleaning

Published:Monday | February 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

THE PUBLIC ought not to hold its breath on the expectation that it will hear much more, or certainly not the gritty details, about last week's 'friendly fire' shooting in Clarendon of two policemen from the constabulary's Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID). By now, much carpet sweeping has begun taking place and the perceived detritus, comprised mostly of facts and evidence of regulatory failures, will most likely end up under the rug.

That will be wrong and unfortunate. For, last Thursday's incident near Glenmuir merely served to confirm two notorious facts about the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that help to undermine public trust in the organisation, as well as contribute to its inability to adequately deal with the crisis of crime in the country.

First, we dare say that the incident near Glenmuir suggests that lack of trust is deepening even within the JCF. That, perversely, may be a good thing. The concern among the untainted members of the force may reach such a critical mass that they may feel compelled to seriously attack the problem.

Great distrust within the ranks

Last week's friendly fire shooting, we remind, was one of the outcomes of the investigation into the kidnapping of a 16-year-old Clarendon girl, taken from a taxi on her way to school. Investigators from the OCID went to Clarendon to probe the crime and, ultimately, set a trap to catch the kidnappers as they collected the ransom.

The OCID appears not to have informed the Clarendon police of their presence or to have given them information on the operation. It is not difficult to comprehend why. Criminality has risen sharply in Clarendon. Many people question the trust-worthiness of some of the police in that parish and the elements with whom they might have cast their lot. Recent allegations of police officers in Clarendon escorting people accused of crimes and being involved in gang-on-gang firefights have not helped matters.

Against that background, the OCID may have feared that its operation would have been compromised if they had shared any information, even of their presence, with their Clarendon colleagues. Or, to put it bluntly, they do not trust the Clarendon police.

Police use of force

The second point in this tragic comedy is the spotlight it places on the police's use-of-force policy, or the failure to comply with it. Last year, Jamaica's police shot and killed 145 people. In some years, that figure has been substantially higher.

The usual explanation by the constabulary for police homicides is that they were shot at by suspicious-looking persons and they returned the fire. The alleged criminals usually die and guns and ammunition recovered. Much of this is true. But there are far too many credible reports of what amounts to extrajudicial killings by the police or evidence of sheer ignorance in the use of deadly force.

What happened at Glenmuir may have helped the critics' case, unless the Clarendon cops can convincingly argue that while they might have mistaken the OCID investigators for the kidnappers, they fully observed the rules on use of force before opening fire. In some cases, this would probably be an easy sell. We are not so sure in the current case - that is, if the carpet cleaners are not allowed their way.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.